FRESHFARM's food education program in partnership with DC Public Schools

FoodPrints is an education project of FRESHFARM that integrates gardening, cooking, and nutrition education into the curriculum at partner elementary schools. Watch the FoodPrints video to see our program in action. 

FoodPrints Field Trips - by Margi Finneran

Happy FoodPrints Friday and happy snow day! Enjoy the calm before the storm with a cup of hot cocoa, tea, or coffee and read about FoodPrints as a field trip.

Elementary schools are very busy places!  Classroom teachers are expected to keep a daily schedule with large chunks of time dedicated to Language Arts and Math.  At many schools it is a struggle to find sufficient time for science and social studies – let alone nutrition education.  One of the ways we have found to make FRESHFARM’s FoodPrints programming work well at the schools we partner with is to schedule FoodPrints classes as "in-school field trips" that take place about once a month.  This model avoids weekly interruptions to the instructional schedule, and at the same time, allows us to give students extended, hands-on, meaningful educational experiences that dive deep into science and social studies subject matter.  Staying at school for the field trip also means that many of the cumbersome, environmentally-unfriendly aspects of field trips are avoided.  For example, FoodPrints Field Trips do not require:

$600.00 bus rental fee
1-2 hours of time spent sitting on the bus
diesel fuel
carbon emissions from the bus
25 + disposable lunches bags, paper or plastic
25 plastic water bottles or juice containers
50 or more plastic baggies for sandwiches and snacks

Students get their hands right into the garden soil.

Every FoodPrints student knows how to prepare kale like an expert!

Instead, in preparation for a FoodPrints Field Trip, students walk from their classroom to the Food Lab and the garden, perhaps smelling the garlic and onions that have been sautéed in preparation for them.  They are immediately engaged with trying to figure out what they will study, harvest and cook for the day.  At the classroom door they find the day’s menu along with the list of farmers who supplied the produce and dairy. They gather on the carpet to discuss the focus and plan for the morning. Younger children might be dramatizing the “Little Red Hen”, grinding wheat and making bread.  Second graders may be dissecting tubers, bulbs and seeds, or fifth graders might be studying Victory Gardens and rationing during WWII.  

Observational drawing of various herbs.

A student illustration of the process of preparing the garden for winter.

As groups break up into work stations, parent and grandparent chaperones are greeted warmly by students. Students work non-stop, rotating through centers. In kitchen centers they prepare ingredients for their meal or snack, as well as add documentation and recipes to their FoodPrints journals. Outside, their gardening center is dictated by the needs of their school garden and the season. It might be planting seeds and seedlings in the spring, weeding and harvesting in the early summer and autumn, or getting the garden ready for winter and testing the soil. Content area centers are often led by the classroom teacher who appreciates the opportunity to focus on the related science, social studies, math or language arts content for the day with small groups of students.  

Weighing, observing, taking notes, and drawing the harvest.

At the end of the two hours we gather in the kitchen.  Students have scrubbed tables and reset them for lunch, they have swept the floor, and are happily commenting on the delicious smell of lunch wafting through the classroom.  The students, proud of their hard work sit down with the parents, teachers and other volunteers and enjoy lunch together.  Conversations flow easily about what they have learned, their favorite part of the experience, what they would like to make the next time, and what they have made at home with their families.

Students and teachers from other classes peek in as they pass the FoodPrints kitchen and wonder, “How long until our next FoodPrints day?” and, “I hope we don’t have a snow day when it's our turn!”

Listening to Ms. Finneran while eagerly waiting to eat the meal they've made.

Written by Margi Finneran, FoodPrints Teacher at SWS.